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August 05, 2007

Blood Diamonds



We had successfully completed the Tanzanian Trio in reverse, Zanzibar, The Serengeti, & Mount Kilimanjaro. With a few days to kill before Andrew flies out, we moved from the Leopard Hotel out of Moshi to the semi luxurious AMEG.

After doing the rounds of the usual souvenir shops in search of the perfect presents for home, on Andrew's final day he was still left wanting. Thankfully, with the help of a local Mr Fix-it, we managed to tee up a covert meeting with a diamond dealer for that afternoon.

Donna and I moved from the AMEG to the Zebra, a slightly cheaper option in town and then the three of us went for coffee at the Tanzanian Coffee House - a travellers icon in Moshi. As with all things Andrew - and one of the reasons we respect him so much, is how he manages to pack so much into his life. And his final day in Tanzania was no exception. Sitting in the coffee shop we got talking to a local who within five minutes managed to sign Andrew up for a tandem ski-dive.

We barely had time to finish our drinks before we were packed into a van (oddly the pilot happened to be outside the coffee shop) and on our way out to Kilimanjaro Airport. Less than an hour after it was first mentioned, and only a couple of hours before his scheduled flight Andrew was circling above us as the plane gained altitude.

We lost sight of it in the clouds, however the next thing we heard (remarkably clearly) was Andrew's excited shouts as the parachute opened.

Bloody Brilliant

Bloody Brilliant

Bloody Brilliant

After the adrenaline rush had cooled we made our way back from the airport to the Zebra hotel, three hours before Andrew's flight was scheduled to leave. We were sitting in the lobby having one final celebratory beer when MR X arrived, a large man from the Chagga Tribe - a group renowned for being business savvy.

Imagine if you will the scene that followed, we are in a small African Town, in a dodgy little hotel. Andrew, Donna and myself are crammed into a tiny little room with a hulking big Diamond Dealer, his wares spread out over the bedspread. When a stone was finally selected an unusual haggling process was performed. Donna quickly tallied how much money Andrew had, how much was required for the taxi to the airport, something to eat and money at the other end. Knocking a few dollars off for good measure, offered a price around $100 less than Mr X quoted and before we knew it, the stone was wrapped and ready for export to Australia.

The remaining stones were rolled up and placed into a discreet black bag. Mr X quietly slipped from the room and the deal was done.

The prearranged transport to the airport was waiting downstairs, we gave Andrew the last of our Tanzanian Shillings as airport funds and bade him goodbye - the cyclone that was Andrew was finally gone... or so we thought.

That evening we were sitting around having a cold beer watching Dubai One on satellite TV when the phone rang. Andrew's connecting flights were cancelled in Nairobi, he had spent the last of his Shillings on a Kenyan taxi to a hotel, only they would not exchange his Tanzanian Shillings for Kenyan Shillings. After passing on the current exchange rate the last we heard was that he managed to get to a casino, swap his Tanzanians for chips, then cash the chips for Kenyans, pay the taxi man and 36 hours later get into Melbourne Airport.

With Andrew gone, we took a day to relax, only to find that we were now totally out of cash pending a transfer from Australia. We had just enough to pay for the hotel room and a bus ticket to Nairobi, Kenya the next day. The last of our travel fund was converted into a lonely $US dollar bill for the costs of the visa.

Tanzania was completed, although rushed, we push northwards again - this time to the promise of a four day safari with friends in the Masai Mara.

     
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Andrew makes you breathless, does he ever stop and where does he get his energy from!

Stella - 23 September, 2007

 
     
     
 

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